Writing an artist’s biography.
The first thing you need to bear in mind when writing an artist’s biography (usually shortened to bio) is that this is a short statement about you, normally written in the third person.
Let’s break that down. You want this piece of work to be appealing, you want people to read it but it is just a window on who you are so it needs to be interesting, concise and intriguing.
To begin, introduce yourself to your reader by giving your name, the medium/media you work with and some background information about yourself. This can include where you were born, where you work and should give some idea about how you first became interested in art.
In my opinion, bios should be no more than 150 words long, simply because people get bored quickly and they won’t read them if they are too long. However, it is worth preparing a few different versions, saying pretty much the same thing but using 50, 100, 150, 200 words etc., to cater for different requirements. For example, one event I take part in annually needs only 50 words as there simply isn’t much room in the publication that they put together to advertise the event. Having these different versions ready in advance can be very useful for any events you decide to go for or invitations you receive at the last minute. Also, different events need to have bios tailored slightly to their own needs, as I will explain in more detail later.
Your biography is a few words about your talents. It is the story of you and your art career. It is not about the fabulous teacher you had at art school, nor the great course/s you took with a local, moderately well-known/ famous artist you know. It is all about you. I know that can feel really difficult for some people.
It is also where you share your achievements and your credentials. The aim is to instill trust through sharing your credibility without you having to say a single word. I can’t stress enough just how important this document and its message is.
So, now you know what to do but trying to condense your life in art into one or two paragraphs isn’t easy, is it? Well, it may be for some of you but for the rest, here are few steps to help you write an appealing artist’s bio.
No doubt you have heard this many times before, but it is crucial that you understand your audience. This can be very different depending on where you need to use a bio. If you have been asked to produce one for a local art fair, your audience will need a more general outline about you, whereas a competition application is going to need something more specifically focused on your artistic credentials.
Ask yourself will your audience be more interested in your past exhibitions, awards and achievements or are they likely to more interested in your process and what medium you employ, for example? It really is a good idea to have a few slightly different versions, at different lengths, which shows a better understanding of your audience’s needs.
What is the right information to include? As I said earlier, your statement should be written in the third person and should contain a summary of significant facts about you starting with your name, the medium (or media) you work with and some background information. After possibly revealing where you were born (if you feel that is relevant to your work); where you work now, if that feels relevant and if you want to share it; and when or how you first became interested in art, you should include any art training you have had, and diplomas or degrees earned. If you are self-taught, state that is the case.
You should then detail any significant exhibitions where you have shown your work, any awards you have won and any other professional achievements. You could, for example, include a mention of publications you have appeared in or important collections, private and public, that your works have been a part of. Be careful, though, not to include too much as self-promotion can quickly appear like bragging and can overwhelm readers or simply put them off. You want them on your side, remember. However, if you have shows coming up, do mention them as you want people to come and see your work hanging if possible.
As I said drafting multiple versions of different lengths is a great idea and, if possible, have someone else take a look. It is often easier to write a bio for someone else than it is to write one for yourself. You might find someone can give a different approach, add something comical or just see you in a way that you hadn’t thought of before which makes your bio stand out from all the rest.
Try and inject your personality into your bio and add in your art-related passions and interests if you think it will resonate with your audience. However, don’t go too mad, save the full story behind who you are, what you do and why you do it, for your artist’s statement. That’s a whole different beast (and another post).
Once you’ve written your bio, edit it and then edit again. As I said, these statements should be short and succinct, easy and engaging to read. If you have a friend who can check it over for you, especially the spelling and grammar, even better. The bio needs to reflect who you are, but you don’t need it to be full of errors! If that friend is also an artist, so much the better. Another artist who is used to reading and writing these types of document is invaluable and they may even be able to give you advice on what to write for different events you decide to take part in.
When you have written a few versions you are happy with don’t just file them away and forget about them. You career is progressing; you are taking part in new events etc., so you need to keep all these documents up to date. Aim to review and, if necessary amend, them every three to six months. This applies equally to your social media platforms, your personal statement, web site text and so on.
Keeping on top of all these written statements about yourself lets your audience know that you are serious about what you do and how you do it and you are not a ‘flash in the pan’ artist. and are serious about what you do. People prefer to buy artwork from artists who have a proven their commitment to the business of making their art. It becomes part of your own provenance.